Kit Finnie: Mabel and Mickey (2 stars)

Kit Finnie: Mabel and Mickey

The tragic life of silent movie star Mabel Normand is the subject of Kit Finnie's one-woman show

Mabel Normand was a silent film-star whose dark and unhappy story seems to be rather more modern than the time-period might suggest. Rumoured to have a cocaine dependency, Normand moved on from the world of modeling when a romance with film producer Mack Sennett led her to film stardom. Box office hits like 1918's Mickey eventually dried up, not least because regular co-star Roscoe Arbuckle was involved in a rape case that stopped their films being re-released, but also because of her involvements with several shootings, including the death of director William Desmond Taylor.

Kit Finnie's debut solo show addresses the life of Mabel Normand, but it's not a conventional show. The events are deliberately jumbled, and the presentation is often abstract, using card-board cut-outs placed on an overhead projector. Finnie narrates as Normand, but slips in and out of character, arguing with the occupants of her sound-booth and expressing discomfort about the nature of the show and the suitability of the venue.

Written by Finnie and directed by Lily Taylor and Frances Bell, Mabel and Mickey is undoubtedly a well-timed effort in the light of current #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns. Efforts to portray Normand in a negative light in the 1920's now seem like a male-dominated system's cynical attempt to remove her star-power. Unfortunately, it's hard to get a clear fix on exactly who the real Mabel was; the endless deconstruction of the narrative often obscures rather than clarifies and interest diminishes as the show fragments.

It's can be interesting to break apart a show and challenge the audience, but it's also advisable to firmly establish a few facts first. As a show, Mabel and Mickey falls short because it's too ambitious; Finnie is an uncompromising performer, but ultimately the impact of her show gets lost in a spray of blood and feathers.

Underbelly Belly Dancer, until 26 Aug, 12.20pm, £9-10 (£8-9).

Kit Finnie: Mabel and Mickey

  • 2 stars

Kit Finnie What happens when you try to tell someone else's story, but they're not done talking? Kit has written a show about Mabel Normand, a notorious 1910s movie star, and the murder case that swallowed her legacy. But there are pigeons cooing in the walls of the theatre and she keeps getting calls about a strange…

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